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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

4.3 169
by Chris Crutcher

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Sarah Byrnes and Eric have been friends for years. When they were children, his fat and her terrible scars made them both outcasts. Later, although swimming slimmed Eric, she stayed his closest friend.

Now Sarah Byrnes — the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known — sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she's hiding,


Sarah Byrnes and Eric have been friends for years. When they were children, his fat and her terrible scars made them both outcasts. Later, although swimming slimmed Eric, she stayed his closest friend.

Now Sarah Byrnes — the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known — sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she's hiding, before its dark currents pull them both under.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Such superlatives as ``riveting'' and ``powerful'' can only hint at the craftsmanship on display in this transcendent story of love, loyalty and courage. While probing such issues as friendship, free speech and moral values, Crutcher ( Chinese Handcuffs ; Stotan! ) tells a tale whose mordant humor, poignancy and suspense pack a breathtaking wallop. A social outcast in junior high due to his excessive weight, narrator Eric Calhoune found a kindred spirit in Sarah Byrnes, whose face and hands were hideously disfigured in a childhood accident. Now a senior and considerably slimmed down through competitive swimming (though still aptly called ``Moby''), Eric remains fiercely devoted to his friend, whose caustic tongue is her only protection from life's inequities. When Sarah abruptly stops talking and is committed to a mental ward, Eric is compelled to take action to help her, but quickly finds that he is in over his head. He risks their friendship by breaking his vow of secrecy and enlisting others' aid--help that comes from such unlikely quarters as a former bully, Eric's swim coach and, most surprisingly, his mother's seemingly wimpy boyfriend. A subplot centering on a self-righteous teammate drives home the point that nothing is as it appears on the surface, and leads to Eric being caught between his menacing vice-principal and the even more malevolent Mr. Byrnes--with spine-tingling results. Superb plotting, extraordinary characters and crackling narrative make this novel one to be devoured in a single unforgettable sitting. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
After years of fighting humiliation for being overweight, Eric Calhoune, alias Moby, begins swimming in high school. Moby describes his absent, overweight father, "(he's) not a guy who should have gone light on desserts and between meal snacks...(but) a guy who should have spread Glue on his lips before showing his face outside his bedroom each morning." Weight and wit have bonded him in long-term friendship with Sarah Byrnes, a girl who has faced the shame of horrible facial burn scars she's borne since the age of three. Against a swimming backdrop Crutcher places the issues of shame, narrow-mindedness, and abuse. Once the story takes hold you move along at such a rapid clip that by the end you're holding on for dear life.
The ALAN Review - Elizabeth Poe
Once again, Chris Crutcher plunges his readers into life's tough issues within a compelling story filled with human compassion. Eric Calhoun and Sarah Byrnes, social outcasts due to Eric's junk-food-fed obesity and Sarah's burn-scarred face, form a childhood friendship dedicated to heaping revenge on those who persecute them. When Eric joins the high-school swim team and begins to lose his ugly pounds, he overeats to keep himself fat so Sarah will not be alone in her misery. But he stops binging when Sarah threatens to beat him senseless. Later, Sarah loses her grit, withdraws from the world, and is hospitalized. Eric verifies his friendship by helping her deal with the physical and psychological pain she has suffered since early childhood. Crutcher handles difficult topics such as abuse, abortion, and religious rigidity with his characteristic intelligence, humor, and empathy.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 UpAn obese boy and a disfigured girl suffer the emotional scars of years of mockery at the hands of their peers. They share a hard-boiled view of the world until events in their senior year hurl them in very different directions. A story about a friendship with staying power, written with pathos and pointed humor. (Mar. 1993)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes EPB
Chapter One

My dad left when I still had a month to go in the darkroom, and historically when people have tried to figure me out (as in, "What went wrong?"), they usually conclude that Mom spoiled me; gave me everything I wanted because I had no pappy. Truth is, Mom thinks I'm a whole lot better off without that particular pappy and has told me a thousand times she's glad I had the good sense to stay packed away until he split. They were young. My mother was my age now when I was born, and so was my dad.

I don't know very much about Dad, really. In eighteen years he's made no effort to contact me, and all I have is a picture. He's a college professor somewhere in the Midwest, Mom thinks in Geology. She doesn't think Geology is in the Midwest, she thinks that's what he teaches. The fact that he's excited about rocks hasn't had much genetic influence on me as far as I can tell, but what I see in the picture of him has. My dad is a tub of lard. At least he was at eighteen. I'm not talking about a guy who should have gone light on the desserts and between-meal snacks. I'm talking about a guy who should have spread Super Glue on his lips before showing his face outside his bedroom each morning. My dad could have sold his extra chins for marble sacks.

And my mom is a fox. Really. Bonafide, hundred-thousand-dollar silver-pelt fox. She has dark brown hair and green eyes and this slinky, long, muscular body that she keeps in perfect working order, and I know for a fact half the kids who come to my house hope to catch her in shorts and a tank top. Christ, she's only thirty-six years old.

"Mom," I said one morning a couple of yearsago, Dad's picture clutched tight in my beefy paw, "tell me something. Tell me why somebody who looks like you would fall for somebody who looks like this." I plopped the picture on the coffee table in front of her.

"Looks aren't everything, Eric," she said.

"His looks aren't anything," I said back. "And he left them for me."

She looked up and smiled. "You look a lot better than your dad," she said. "He was compulsive, ate all the time. You're big and solid. That's different."

"Big and solid as twelve pounds of mashed potatoes in an eight-pound bag," I said. "If you dressed me up in an orange and-red sweater, you could ride me around the world in eighty days."

"And you have a much better sense of humor than your father," she said, probably remembering Dad's high regard for rocks. Mom was never one to let me dwell on the parts of me I didn't like.

My name is Eric Calhoune, and though I have spent hours in the weight room since that conversation, most folks call me Moby. My English teacher, Ms. Lemry, who is also my coach, sometimes calls me Eric the Well Read, because I'm pretty smart. She also calls me Double-E, for Eric Enigma. "I can't figure exactly how you're put together inside," she says.

"You're a jock who doesn't compete in his best sport, a student who doesn't excel where his aptitude is highest, and you surround yourself with a supporting cast straight out of 'The Far Side."'

"Tweech his own," I said, and pirouetted to tippy-toe out of the room, in keeping with my image as Double-E.

If my belly button were a knothole it would certainly be more congruous with my keg-like body. I have chiseled away at my father's genetic code since I realized I was better equipped to roll to school than walk, but the bare-bones me is still more Raymond Burr than Arnold Schwarzenegger. All of which wouldn't matter, but for the amount of time that belly button is exposed, which approaches four hours a day. I'm a swimmer. I probably don't have to tell you the Speedo people don't employ William Conrad as a fashion designer, and I therefore do not step onto the starting blocks looking like a Sports Illustrated fashion plate.

Looks alone would be enough to keep most guys with my particular body design as far away from water as the Wicked Witch of the West, but swimming is a thinking man's sport and Ms. Lemry is a thinking man's coach. Besides, it keeps me far from the clutches of Coach Stone, who has been trying to get me to come out for wrestling since I was a frosh because he fancies me unbeatable as a heavyweight, which I very well might be. But the idea of a permanent gash across the bridge of my nose and mat bums on every pointed appendage does not appeal to me no matter how many trophies I might walk away with. I'm not a great swimmer, but I'm good—a lot better than you'd think looking at me-and I like the challenge of the clock, as well as the people involved. I also like the wake I create for the guy in the next lane.

We're eight thousand yards into the workout. Lemry's whistle blasts. "Let's wrap it up. Twenty-five yards. All out. Five breaths." Five breaths. No sweat.

"Twenty-five yards," she yells two laps later as we pull ourselves onto the deck at the far end. "All out. Three breaths." The oxygen bill is in the mail.

"Twenty-five yards. All out. Two breaths." Serious oxygen debt begins.

"Twenty-five yards. Did I say all out? One breath." The whistle...

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes EPB
. Copyright © by Chris Crutcher. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Chris Crutcher has written nine critically acclaimed novels, an autobiography, and two collections of short stories. Drawing on his experience as a family therapist and child protection specialist, Crutcher writes honestly about real issues facing teenagers today: making it through school, competing in sports, handling rejection and failure, and dealing with parents. He has won three lifetime achievement awards for the body of his work: the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the ALAN Award, and the NCTE National Intellectual Freedom Award. Chris Crutcher lives in Spokane, Washington.

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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 169 reviews.
Jasmine_F More than 1 year ago
Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes is about an odd friendship between two kids in high school with different but equal problems. Sarah Byrnes is horribly burnt and the main character Eric Calhoune is just overweight, but is constantly picked on. Sarah begins to shut out the world and Eric is left to pick up the pieces to figure out why, and to find out the secret she's been keeping all the years of their friendship. Eric begins to slowly understand Sarah's secret and tries to do something about it. Taking an unexpected twist in events the novel turns into something more than friendship. It takes a glimpse into the debate of abortion, religion and family issues. Creating an environment any teenager can relate to. The book is very serious at times but also contains a lot of comic relief. Both flow into each other well and will either leave you laughing or dying to keep reading. This book is very realistic when it comes to high school. The author includes a swimming team, which Eric is part of, and the bully everyone is afraid of. The author also gives a strong message. Will friendship be everlasting through thick and thin or will it crumble beneath the weight of the pressures of society. Overall i absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a different kind of novel. A great break from the routine. So will the friendship of Sarah and Eric prevail or will it be lost? Well you'll just have to read the book and find out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book would be quick and just okay. But i really enjoyed it. The writing was hilarious and the plot had me finish the book in one day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, I thought was awesome! I mean even though there were a lot of controversial things like abortion, child abuse, religion/semi-religion it still tied into the characters and Sarah Byrnes. It seemed while other students were wrapped up in their problems it was still relating to Sarah Byrnes' problems except it was just being kept inside. Once her best-friend Eric told her about his love-interest and her abortion Sarah didn't feel so alone. She realized that she wasn't the only one hurting so bad but there were others hurting too but just in a different way. This was a heart-wrenching story of a kid that stands up for a friend when an adult can't. I loved every page of it and recommend it to anyone and everyone!
SkylarRay44 More than 1 year ago
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a story about an incredibly strong friendship between Eric Calhoun and Sarah Byrnes. They have been best friend for the longest time. Sarah has a scar down her face that she has to live with every day, which she received from a pot of boiling water. Throughout the book he uncovers many stories about Sarah Byrnes and what really happened to her. Through the long remarkable journey they do many things for each other that show the real meaning of friendship. Sarah is sent to the hospital because she has stopped communicating and they cannot find out what is wrong with her. While she is there Eric comes to visit her and everything just slowly pours out, but Sarah's secrets aren't the only person's secrets that come out of hiding. All the characters have some problem they are facing and some don't know how to face them with issues such as suicide, abortion, and finding a loved one. In the end it all turns out to be the best thing that has ever happened to some of them. I believe that this book really shined through on showing the emotional side of some teenager's lives. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes showed me that I kind of take my family for granted and how I don't really understand what it is like to experience the life that some kids have. Details given by Crutcher on her father and what he did to her are similar to other people's parents and the harm they provide for their kids. I really enjoyed how this book was written and the lesson I was taught from it. In conclusion this book was an amazing eye opener that has a great impact on many peoples lives. In the beginning it was very slow, but as we slowly found out about the characters and what was going on the excitement of what would happen next greatly approached on us. Everything in this book held us on a new attention level. The word choice, the descriptions, the setting, the characters, all made this book so well rounded. This book is a must read for people 13 and up! It greatly deserves a five star rating, although some or the topics and diction are very vivid. With everything that happened it was one of the best books I've ever.
NOLAreaderMH More than 1 year ago
This book broke my heart in the beginning, but it was so much more powerful and moving the more I read. Eric and Sarah's friendship is rare and makes you feel hopeful for their futures. It's believable and a story for all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I an 16 years old and had to read this book for school normally school books are horrible but i was surprized that this book was good. It is tragic what the kids have to go through. It made me a little emotional... i would not recomend this book to boys ... but it was a well written book and very creative!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Try imagining having only 1 adult that is a pure psychopath with a dash of insaneness and a cup of crazies. This crazy-insane psychopath is named Virgil Byrnes. Virgil Byrnes has a daughter named Sarah. Sarah is not a normal kid compared to everyone else you would see. Her face is all disfigured from a tragic accident from when she was younger and that makes her an outcaste as well as Eric, one of Sarah¿s friends. Eric is not a skinny boy and has been offered to join sports because of his weight. Both of them have been ridiculed and harassed because of how they look and what they do. One day Eric sees Sarah powerless in a hospital. Eric tries with all his might to find the cause of her not speaking. While he is trying to find the cause, he instead finds out what happened in her childhood and he also learns more about himself. Throughout the book he meets new people with Sarah in the back of his head. Eric learns why people act the way they do. When he knows why Sarah is in the hospital he is shocked of what happened, not being able to swallow the truth. This is a tear dropping book that makes you relate things that are going on in your life. I did not want to put the book down but when I did I was wondering what will happen next. Chris Crutcher did an amazing job at describing the places and events that were going on in the book. While I was reading the detailed book, it felt like I was actually in the story, feeling the tension and emotions throughout the characters. After reading this book, I give the book a five star rating because of its thorough descriptions. I was satisfied with the book and I would love to read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and have recommended it to many people. The story is so real.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not long enough 30 pages :( but over all the book was good :)
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I didnt think i would like this book...my teachers recommened it....i thought i should try it and im glad i did...everyone shoukd read it...its a sad but a great book!!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing it tells of young love,abuse,batrayal,and much more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in high school!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great. Had a good start and ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago